“We give the Arcangelo Award to people who make a difference in the community, and that describes Domenic perfectly,” Mola Foundation President Tony Copertino explains. “Anytime the community needs help, he’s there to lend a hand. He’s always involved and always giving.”
The youngest of eight children of Francesco and Maria Gambino, Domenico was born and raised in Ciminna, Sicily, along with siblings Maria, Andrea, Giuseppe, Salvatore, Domenica, Anna and Antonino. Scratching out a meager existence as farmers in their native land, the family pulled up stakes in 1968 and moved to the 3500 block of West Fullerton Avenue in Chicago when Domenico was 23.
“Life was hard in Italy, and America was the land of opportunity,” he recalls. “We came over with a broken suitcase and nothing to put in it, and we made a better life for ourselves.”
Returning to Italy in 1969 to marry his childhood sweetheart, Marianna Grimaldi, Domenico began his new life in America as a tool and die maker. In 1979, while still working in the factory, he and Tony Ingraffia, the son of his sister Maria, opened their first grocery store. Located across from their old home on Fullerton Avenue, they bought the store from the previous owner and renamed it TND’s Finer Foods.
“Tony worked there as a bagger when he was in high school and learned the business from the bottom up,” he recalls. “When the owner offered to sell the business to him, Tony accepted and invited me in as his partner.”
The duo changed the name of the store to Tony’s Finer Foods in 1984, and working day and night for decades, they expanded their business to include four locations in Chicago; additional locations in Bridgeview, Melrose Park, Niles, North Riverside and Plainfield; and a corporate headquarters in Itasca. A new location in Hanover Park is set to open in April.
Domenico and Marianna have been blessed with three children and seven grandchildren, and Domenico considers himself doubly blessed to be able to work alongside his daughters and their husbands, as well as several other family members.
“I consider myself very lucky to be able to go to work each day and see my kids,” he says. “That’s what makes it all worthwhile.”
When Domenico isn’t minding the store, he’s a fixture in the Italian-American community, giving generously to countless causes. He is a proud member of the Joint Civic Committee of Italian Americans, serving as a past chairman and passionate supporter of the Columbus Day Parade, and he is equally proud of his involvement in Casa Italia, Società San Giovanni Bosco e Santissimo Crocifisso di Ciminna, Italo American Soccer and Social Club “Maroons,” Mazzini-Verdi Club, Molisani Nel Mondo and Lucchesi Nel Mondo.
His dedication and commitment have been recognized by the JCCIA, which bestowed its Joseph Cardinal Bernardin Humanitarian of the Year Award upon him, as well as the Italian Cultural Center, the San Giovanni Bosco Society and the Maroons, which all honored him as Man of the Year.
“I came from Italy with nothing, and now I have something, and I want to share that with the community,” he explains. “I don’t care if I ever get mentioned, as long as I can help people who need my help.”
The Mola Foundation will host its dinner dance on April 20 at Alta Villa Banquets in Addison. For details, call Tony Copertino at 630-980-4778 or Pat Capriati at 630-595-2207.